Table of Contents
If you crave it, eat it. Trust your instincts.
This person obviously knew me and knew where I lived, but it wasn’t the stalker aspect of it that had me freaked out right now.
It was that they had to know what I’d been craving.
“Freak” is right.
No, that was insane. How the hell could anyone know that I’d been fighting the urge to chow down on . . . brains?
Yet what else could the letter possible be referring to? Usually if I craved something, I ate it. Simple. I didn’t need anyone else to tell me it was okay and that I should go for it.
But I’d been craving
. The smell was like chocolate and cookies and biscuits and gravy and everything else that was delicious. It damn near drove me crazy every time I had to touch one. I’d been fighting the cravings the way I’d never fought the urge to take drugs or get drunk.
No. It didn’t make sense. It had to be referring to something else. A dull anger began to form in my gut. Why the hell couldn’t Anonymous Letter Guy simply tell me what the hell was going on?
Also by Diana Rowland:
SECRETS OF THE DEMON SINS OF THE DEMON1
Copyright © 2011 by Diana Rowland
ISBN : 978-1-101-51659-1
All Rights Reserved.
DAW Book Collectors No. 1554.
DAW Books are distributed by Penguin Group (USA).
All characters and events in this book are fictitious.
All resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
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First Printing, July 2011
DAW TRADEMARK REGISTERED
U.S. PAT. AND TM. OFF. AND FOREIGN COUNTRIES
HECHO EN U.S.A.
For Anna Marie Catoir
I’m eternally grateful that I have so many friends, associates, and loved ones who are always willing to lend me their time or expertise. This book would not exist if not for them.
I owe very special thanks to:
St. Tammany Parish Coroner Dr. Peter Galvan and forensic pathologist Dr. Michal DeFatta for the heaping scads of inspiration and education they’ve provided.
Angel Galloway for telling so many hysterical stories about her life. There’s a lot of Angel in Angel!
Nina Lourie and Sandra Wickham for being kick-ass beta readers who were willing to brave the many (many!) rough spots of the early drafts.
Nicole Peeler for continuing to be the best critique partner a writer could ever hope to have.
Roman White for being a terrific friend and pillar of support.
The members of the Rio Hondo 2011 workshop—Walter Jon Williams, Maureen McHugh, Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck, Karen Joy Fowler, David D. Levine, Ben Parzybok, James Patrick Kelly, Alex Jablokov, Karen Livdahl, and Jen Volant—for wanting to know what the story was about.
Matt Bialer, my incredible agent, for being, well, so darn incredible!
Lindsay Ribar for helping me avoid the pigeon poop. (This will make sense to her. I hope!)
Dan Dos Santos for creating the cover for this book. This amazing, fantastic, trashy and gorgeous cover! Seriously, go look at it. I’m the luckiest author
My wonderful editor, Betsy Wollheim, for completely appreciating the concept of a white trash zombie.
And finally, for Jack and Anna, for cheerfully accepting and loving my (many . . . MANY) quirks.
“You should be dead,” the ER nurse stated as she adjusted something on my IV. She was more husky than fat, with too much eye makeup, and hair that had been dyed a nasty shade of reddish orange. When I didn’t immediately respond she glanced my way, as if to assure herself that I really was awake and aware. “You realize that, right?” she demanded. “You’re pretty damn lucky to be alive.”
“Um . . . okay,” I muttered. Beneath the sheet I ran a hand over my stomach, frowned. “Have I been in a coma or something?” I asked.
Her thin lips pinched together. “A coma? No. You were brought in a few hours ago.” She paused, set her hands on her hips. “You
I scrubbed a hand over my face, shook my head. “No, I was in a car accident,” I insisted. “I remember being injured.” Didn’t I? “I was bleeding,” I added, less certain as I ran my hand over the unbroken skin of my stomach again.
She gave a dismissive snort. “There’s not a scratch on you. You must have hallucinated it.” Her eyes narrowed with contempt and disapproval. I didn’t care. I was used to seeing that when people looked at me.
Glass and blood and metal. A broken body beside me. Teeth and hunger. Gobbets of flesh ripped away. . . .
Cold sweat broke out on the back of my neck. How could that have been a hallucination? Hallucinations were strange and hazy and jumbled. I knew. I’d had a few.
Making an annoyed noise in the back of her throat, she snagged the chart from the end of the bed. “Unknown white female. Hmmm. Do you remember your name, sweetheart?” She flicked her eyes back up to me and gave me a sugary-bitchy smile that didn’t have an ounce of true concern in it.
“Yeah, I know my damn name,” I snarled. “It’s Angel Crawford.” I wanted to add,
And you can write it down with the pencil that’s stuck up your ass,
but I managed to hold it back. I knew that nurses had the power to make your life suck worse than it already did, and it was clear that this bitch considered me to be one step away from starring in my own loser reality show. Screw her. I was at least
The nurse gave a sniff as if she didn’t truly believe I was smart or sober enough to know who I was. “Let’s see what all was in your system—THC, hydrocodone, alprazolam, oxycodone. . . .” She rattled off a couple of other drug names that sounded long and scary while I scowled blackly at her. After she finished she gave me a look full of smug satisfaction, hung the chart back up and left the room in a pompous waddle before I could respond. Good thing too, because what I wanted to say to her would have been too much even for a Jerry Springer special.
My anger withered as soon as she was gone, overwhelmed by my confusion and sick fear. I lifted the sheet up to see for myself—again—that I was uninjured.
I struggled to make sense of it. I remembered the blood. Lots of it. There’d been some sort of long gash across my stomach, and I had a nauseating memory of seeing the jagged end of white bone poking from my thigh, blood pumping out and all over. But now there was nothing out of place. No scrapes, no bruises. Just perfectly normal flesh all over. A coma could explain that, right? A couple of months or so, enough time for me to heal up.
Except that I didn’t have any scars, either.
Sighing, I dropped my head back to the pillow. I hadn’t been in a coma. The nurse wasn’t lying or messing with my head.
No, I was simply a loser.
Overdose. Great. Well, this was a new low for me, and it didn’t help that it was totally believable. The only possibly shocking aspect was that it hadn’t happened sooner. I didn’t remember taking as many drugs as the bitch nurse had said, but the fact that I was in the ER was proof enough that I obviously had. The nurse hadn’t gone and altered my lab results either. I did that all by myself, the old-fashioned way.
Weary depression rolled over me as I stared at the speckled tile of the ceiling. Beyond the door I could hear the frenzy of a stretcher being wheeled by and voices raised in brief concern. I knew what would happen next. Some social worker or psychologist would come in and tell me I needed rehab or counseling or some crap like that, which was a stupid suggestion since I didn’t have money or insurance. Or worse, I’d get a seventy-two-hour commitment for “psychiatric evaluation,” since I was clearly a danger to myself, and I’d probably end up in some nasty charity ward. There was no way I was gonna put up with that. I felt perfectly fine now and more than ready to get the hell out of here.
I kicked the sheet away and slid off the bed. The tile was smooth and cold against my bare feet. I needed shoes and clothes
I was wearing the stupid hospital gown, and my own clothes were so covered with blood that I’d draw all sorts of attention if I tried to walk out in them.